Ask anyone who acts: there is no better job in the world. Nowhere else do you get paid money to connect with the deepest, most intimate parts of yourself and express them in the safest way possible – via other characters.
We not only get to explore our own depths. We also get to dig deep into what it truly means to be a human walking among other humans. We get to utter words written by humankind’s finest minds and sharpest writers, and we get to not only speak them, we get to perform them.
Acting is part therapy, part literature class, part history lesson, and part friend-building exercise, each and every project we work on, and we are immensely lucky we get to do it.
Let’s see your Uncle Seymour the accountant say that about his job!
But even so, even with such a depth of passion built right into what we do, it sometimes happens that we lose touch with why we started down this wonderful, trying, difficult, but ultimately glorious and rewarding path in the first place. Sometimes we could all use a little refresher course in what it is we love about acting and why we want to do it. Here are a few things to keep in mind, and a few tricks to help you rekindle your passion, should you feel your acting turning into something less than a calling for whatever reason.
1. Don’t Forget That Acting Truly Is the Greatest Job In the World!
The first step toward relighting that fire beneath your posterior when it comes to acting is simply to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember that what we do is the envy of almost everyone in the world who isn’t able to do it. How many times have you heard sentiments along these lines at Thanksgiving Dinner with relatives, or at a party, or in a bar conversation: “Oh, you’re an actor! I wish I could do that!” It’s important to take a moment to remember for ourselves that we are truly, truly lucky people to possess the talents and the drive that we have, to have that special something within us that allows us to pursue this magnificent vocation. We share company with a millennia-old tradition among the human race that predates written history. We are connected by blood and sweat to an ancestral line who performed for one another around their cave fires before they could speak a word. That line is unbroken for thousands of years, and you should be proud you are part of it. Not to mention we get to do the same types of things as people like Ian McKellan, Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro and Jessica Lange! It helps to take a moment to watch a favorite movie and remind yourself, “Hey, that’s what I do too!”
2. Time For a Date – With Yourself and Your Art
To better help yourself along the way to rekindling your passion for this tremendous art we are privileged to do, it’s a good idea to take yourself on an artistic date. You don’t have to get weird about it or anything – like, you don’t have to go buy yourself flowers or a box of candy or anything (unless you really want to!) But what you can do is go to the theater, or go to see a classic film – not on Netflix; a date with you is special enough to warrant a trip to the cinema, no? Or maybe go to a museum you’ve never visited, or even just take a sandwich to the park some afternoon when you have nothing else you have to do, along with a biography of some actor you admire, and let your mind wander. Step outside the treadmill of racing to auditions or rehearsals or performances even just for a little while, and allow yourself to be transported by the magic of the arts, with no commitments looming over your head, no ulterior motives or anything on your mind at all other than the sheer enjoyment of the magic that is art. It’s a great way to recharge and remind yourself why you love this stuff!
3. Do The Work
One of the best ways to rekindle the joy of acting is to do some acting! Hit up a new class, get to an open mic night, check out an improv group – get yourself performing in some new, refreshing way. This is an especially useful way to break out of the slog that can sometimes come when we find we’ve been grinding away at auditions for a while, especially auditions for roles that may not be as meaty as we might like. Hey, we’ve all got to pay the bills. But there’s nothing like going through a few weeks of solid commercial auditions, or reading for roles like “Reporter #2” in a TV series, or “Panicky Background Idiot” for films of the week. That can sap the energy and joy from the most motivated actor. Just keep in mind that’s it’s better to have auditions than not to have them! No shame whatsoever in taking that kind of work when it comes along. But of course it’s not why we got into this thing in the first place. Remind yourself of that by getting out there and PLAYING again, doing some classes or student film roles or improv – stuff that has nothing to do with making a living and everything to do with having fun as an actor. You’ll find your next round of auditions to sell laundry detergent or Cheesy-Poofs to be much more energetic, lively and – dare I say it – fun!
4. Hang With Some Brothers or Sisters in Arms
It’s really easy to get caught up in the daily grind of auditions and classes and end up feeling isolated. You can be sitting in a roomful of strangers or even semi-acquaintances waiting to read day after day and feel as alone as anyone. It can sometimes feel as though this fight is yours alone, and that can be draining, both in terms of energy and motivation. It helps to find a way to connect with your fellow actors once a week or so for a fun night of decompression and sharing of all the ups and downs we encounter, and to which we can all relate. Of course you should be regularly attending classes with your actor friends, but this idea is more about NOT working and just relaxing together for a change. And if you can make a special effort to do so outside of the electronic channels that occupy so much of our day-to-day lives, all the better. That is, if you absolutely have to set up a group chat in order to connect, so be it, but so much the better if you can arrange a weekly coffee afternoon or wine sharing evening or brunch with a group of actor friends. Banish all thought of networking or even working at all, and just decompress together on Sunday afternoon with a few of your like-minded weirdoes and you will thank yourself when you’re heading out to audition on Monday.
5. And Now For Something Completely Different
As smart, creative, sensitive people, there is a real danger for actors in terms of artistic burnout if ALL we do with our creative energy is in pursuit of acting. Yes, you must be dedicated in order to succeed in this business; yes,you must constantly be working to improve your craft, and yes, that means a lot of work. It also means a certain type of single-mindedness. However, there’s something to be said for indirectly boosting your creativity by stepping outside of the acting box for a while in a creative sense. If you feel yourself hitting a wall when it comes to acting – losing the spark or the passion for it – one way to help bring it back is to focus your creativity on something completely different: pick up a new musical instrument, learn a new language, take a martial arts class, take a photography class or learn pottery or take up painting – anything to get those creative juices flowing in a tangential way apart from acting. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it really works! Activating your creativity in any way helps to activate it in all the ways in which you use it.
Finally, make the time even in your busy schedule to remind yourself of why you do this. Write yourself a note and stick it to the bathroom mirror reminding yourself how special and how lucky you are to be an actor. Don’t be like Uncle Seymour the accountant – remind yourself that you are loved and you bring love to others when you perform. If we take the time to remind ourselves of these things, these vital aspects of the magic of acting, we can ensure that it is a joyful, rewarding experience for decades to come!